Reviving Role Play

I’ve mentioned before my love for all things drama, and role play is a big part of that. You can wander into any Early Year’s classroom and find a buzzing shop, or home corner, or cafe. Yet somehow this vanishes as soon as a learner leaves kindergarten. And this year, I’ve made it my mission to bring it back.

I’m now teaching in Y2 (or Grade 1), which is often the year that role play disappears. I wanted to see how the learners would behave in a role play area. Have they already gone beyond that stage of imaginative play? Would it be a place for tumbleweed only? How could you step it up to make it more interesting and challenging for them? I felt the answer lay in giving the agency and ownership to the learners.

So on our first ‘Passion Project’ afternoon (about which there will be another, more detailed post later), a group of eager learners expressed a desire to understand how a role play area was created. They would be my team for the next couple of sessions, and would design and furnish the area themselves.

We sat down with our planning sheet – how would we start? Through discussion, a list of steps were drawn up, with the first being to decide what we wanted the role play area to be. The list was huge! It took a lot of narrowing down, and a lot of compromise, but eventually we settled on an aeroplane. Next thing on our list – what features of an aeroplane would we need to include?

And now the fun really began, as they sorted themselves into teams, each with a specific task. Some were working on the cockpit, others making seatbelts, some were on the entertainment systems, some on the catering…it was a hive of activity!

It took us quite a few sessions before they were happy with the final result. What really astounded me had been the level of collaboration. I am always wary of putting such a large group of learners on one project, there’s always one or two that do all the work while others do nothing. Not this time. They were united in their common goal of creating their aeroplane and nothing would get in their way!

But now it was complete, would anyone actually play with it? Was role play still engaging for those beyond kindergarten? Just look and see…

ALL of the learners have played with it, non-stop!! It has morphed a few times, and been victim of hurricanes and tornados more often than I believe to be possible! They are so proud of their area, and the level of interaction has been an absolute joy to witness. I have watched new friendships being forged, confidence shining through from quieter learners, and this overwhelming collaborative energy that has just blown me away. Now they have seen the possibilities with our resources, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Just an update (3 weeks later). We decided to celebrate “Talk like a Pirate Day” with the learners. I was totally thrilled when, after a brief introduction to the day, I wandered out into the pod and saw this!

They’d made their own pirate ship with anything they could find. I was thrilled to see how this showed their ownership of the space, and their confidence in creating their own dramatic play. Love it!!

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